Monday, June 25, 2012

Family Ties

More news to come about the house, I'm just waiting on things to happen before I can officially proclaim we have somewhere to live. It's exciting but stressful, worrying and frustrating all at the same time.

This blog is mostly for regaling my experiences in the Maritimes but the dogs are obviously still a huge part of my life and this weekend was no exception for me or for the people who own dogs I've bred. I headed across to Canning, NS to visit with Jill and her 'Boy' Cash. And when I say 'Boy' I mean he is almost a clone of The Boy. The second I laid eyes on Cash I saw my very own Raimi looking back at me. There are elements of Leeloo in there - eye shape, color, and the planes of his head, but Cash's aura, attitude and energy is all Boy.

He dwarfs Momma Leeloo, and frankly he dwarfs his Daddy Boy too. Cash didn't know when to stop growing. Fortunately the bigger they are the sweeter they are and every ounce of Cash is soft and kind. 

Cora was delighted six ways to Sunday that Cash was ready to play at a moment's notice - her parents can be curmudgeons sometimes - and there was a lot of barking, wrestling and general carrying-on over the weekend. On Saturday night, after much fussing and man-handling, we managed to get a 'family portrait' of the dogs together on the couch and the resemblance is uncanny. Whenever I look at any of the Raimi x Leeloo puppies it's like looking at a hologram - from one angle I see The Boy, and from the other I see Leeloo. Genetics are marvelous.

Huge thanks to Jill who put us up for two nights in New Minas, offered almost endless treats for the dogs, barbecued delicious food for me and provided wonderful hospitality and conversation. I would definitely do it again although I'm not sure she would ... 4 extra dogs is a lot to take in!

Just a little ways away, across the Northumberland Strait, past PEI and on a tiny little island called St Pierre et Miqeulon lives Zayi. When I sent Zayi to St Pierre I didn't think she'd ever see another Ridgeback in her life, and with good reason, but I am happy to say that I was wrong. On Father's Day I met up with Bella, she is from my second litter (Xmas 2007) and she's been travelling across North America with her people Mike and Joy. They literally passed us on the highway last weekend and stopped in for a visit in Malagash. After that they headed up to Cape Breton and then across to Newfoundland.

Late last week I got word they were heading to St Pierre and I was pretty sure they didn't know that Bella's niece lived there so I contacted Pierre, Zayi's dad, and put them in contact with each other. Turns out it was a great visit for everyone, especially the dogs! Zayi got to play in Ridgeback style for the first time in almost a year and gave Bella a tour of her island beaches and mountains.

Big thank you to Pierre for meeting up with Bella and her family and for sending these photos, it's great to bring people together who would otherwise not have met. I would have been so disappointed if I'd found out after their visit to St Pierre that they were there - and I'm sure Zayi would have been disappointed too! How cool to see these two dogs standing on the rocks of a tiny French owned island off the coast of Canada; one was placed in a home in Victoria, BC, the other never expected to see another Ridgeback in her life. You never know where life will take you.  

Meanwhile in St. John's, Newfoundland, Luke and Jax were invited to a fashion photo shoot at the last minute. The dogs that were scheduled to be in the session bailed on short notice and Stephanie - Luke's Mom - knew someone who knew someone and arranged to have the two brothers in the shoot together. The photos turned out great and these two handsome boys can now boast how fashion forward they are!

(Photo by Mike Mahoney Photography)

It was quite a weekend for Invictus dogs in this great place called Atlantic Canada. I love that all the dogs are owned by great people, that the dogs foster instant friendship because we all have the same breed - even more so because they are from the same breeder - and that everyone knows out there, through the dogs, we are family and always will be. So to Cash, Zayi, Bella, Luke and Jax thank you for making this past weekend one to remember for me and for your Moms and Dads - nothing would be the same without you.

In the coming days I hope to have news on where we are going to be moving to in 3 weeks ... preferably a house I will own instead of someone's couch!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This Little House

Last time I ranted about my house it was because it wasn't even on the market yet and I had an offer. That offer fell through for no explicable reason since the inspection didn't turn up major issues with the house - the person just changed their mind - I suspect it was the inflluence of her son who didn't like the location. So the For Sale sign went up in the yard and there it sat. Of course I got a little lazy about keeping the house up to 'Showing' snuff and it rained and rained so I couldn't mow the lawn. A week after the sign went up someone knocked on my door wanting to know if it was still for sale. I said yes and they gave me some information, wanted to arrange a viewing, I contacted my realtor Giovanna, she contacted them and they said 'Oh, we have a couple other places in mind, we'll let you know'. Pardon my language but, what the frig? Who goes out of their way to ask about a house and then the very next day changes their mind? If this is what listing the house will be like it was going to be a long haul.

A couple weeks pass and nothing. Giovanna emailed to tell me a couple people had called about it, she had one walk-in but no requests for showings yet. So we waited. Four weeks from the day the sign went up Giovanna emails me for a showing at 10am. It means I have to take the dogs to work with me but okay, I can take them home at lunch. They just sat in the truck looking bewildered for a couple hours. After work I got an email from my realtor asking if the potential buyer could return that night at 7:30pm. Wait, what? Okay! So I load the dogs up again and we head to the beach while the house is viewed by the potential buyer and her relatives.

That night at 9:30pm Giovanna emails to ask if I'm home and if she can come present an offer. Wait, what? Okay! It's low so I counter offer and she leaves just after 10pm. She said she'd let me know tomorrow. I wake up in the morning, check my email and there it is ... counter offer accepted. Subject to inspection and financing but it's there in black and white with a closing of August 30 and conditions to be met by June 22. I don't hold my breath or get stressed because I've been through this before.

The inspection is set up for Tuesday at 1pm which is slightly inconvenient because I had to have the dogs at work with me again and it was a hot day. We survived though and I got the dogs home to a house that was maybe not mine anymore. I didn't stress about the inspection since there was nothing I could do about it and that night Giovanna emailed to say there were no major issues and the sale appeared to be going ahead but the buyer wanted to change the closing date to July 16. Um, that's in 4 weeks. Holy crap.

The next day we did a little additional paperwork and said she was going to try and get the buyer to sign off on all conditions on Thursday. Wait, what? Okay! So Thursday morning, Cora's birthday, Giovanna comes into the store mid-morning with the signature of the buyer waiving all other conditions, I sign on the dotted line and house is officially sold.


Four weeks on the market and this little house that I love is no longer my own. I worry and wonder what someone else will do with it or to it. Will they love it as I have? Will they take care of it? It's the house that allowed me to live in quiet comfort with my dogs in Nova Scotia. It raised Leeloo's two litters of puppies and it's been a better first home than I could imagine. It suited me perfectly when I moved here and although it's required some work, my Dad and I have put a lot of loving hours into its care (probably more my Dad than me!).

My next house is in the works, more on that later, when things have actually happened. For now though we are looking at starting to pack, I have a dog show next weekend and if the house I want to buy doesn't pan out I can start to panic!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Stopping Traffic

Today the blog has a new look. You might have noticed. I'm still fiddling with it a little bit, Blogger has added and changed some things so I'm still navigating what it can do. I'm not much of an instruction reader so when I start messing around with things like this there are a lot of "Oooooh" and "Aha!" moments and a lot of back-tracking. It's a process.

My three year anniversary of moving to Nova Scotia just passed at the end of May, it slipped by without me noticing much. Even so, three years is nothing to sneeze at; it means it's been three years since I've seen most of my friends in Calgary, three years since I've seen the mountains, three years since I've been able to look across an expanse of land like the prairies and see for miles and miles to the horizon.  Not that I miss it much, I think of Calgary as somewhere I want to be, like, never.

I have plans to visit Calgary in the summer of 2013 and although I look forward to seeing all the people I left behind, I have no love of the city itself. Just thinking about driving down Deerfoot stresses me out - not because I'm a nervous driver or am anxious about the all that traffic after the Nova Scotia version of rush hour (10 cars stopped at a light at once ... ooooh, scary) - it's that there are just so many people who are angry in the city, and they drive angry. It would seep through the air vents into the car I was driving and, just like a zombie virus, I'd become just another suppressed and angry Calgary driver. I have no desire to relive that experience. I'd prefer a chauffeur to drive me around so I don't have to experience that impotent fury. Thankfully I know that when I return to Nova Scotia, all the weirdness here will be welcome and I'll once again get to laugh when people talk about the stress of driving in Halifax which is basically Calgary traffic at midnight.

Why weird? Well, for one thing the 'Yield' sign appears to have either no meaning or a different meaning here. According to my road knowledge the Yield sign means that if it applies to the road you're on, you shoulder check for traffic and if it's clear you may accelerate into the lane you wish to travel in. If it's not clear you must brake to allow the traffic to pass and then make your own lane change. It does not mean you shoulder check and, if there is traffic coming up on your left hand side, that you accelerate immediately and attempt to 'merge' into the lane. This results in people, who know what a Yield means, having to brake suddenly from 100 km/hr highway travel to avoid colliding with your stupid ass. When you are on the highway and a Mac truck with two trailers is coming up that exit ramp on your right and intending to not yield to the highway traffic, you can guess who is going to brake first. I've seen people in front of me get cut off and I've also seen people who are not yielding and are also not being let in by the highway traffic finding themselves on the shoulder of the highway. I suspect they have no idea why the traffic flow did not let them in. This is why:

What these morons are attempting to do is called a Merge. That sign looks like this and let me tell you, there is either a severe shortage of Merge signs in the province or a severe lack of people in highway design who know it even exists. I have rarely seen them in my travels and given the way people drive here and the number of Nova Scotians who live in Calgary, the total mayhem of traffic there is beginning to make sense. But I digress ... I love a good merge. Done correctly it doesn't interrupt the flow of traffic and as long as everyone plays by the rules your standard merge should result in no hurt feelings from either driver.

Now, although the majority of people do not appear to know how to use a Yield, I also think it has no business being at the entry to a highway. Asking traffic attempting to enter a 100km/hr highway to come to stop, if necessary, in order to get onto the highway is, as you can imagine, very dangerous. The potential for accidents is very high and I think the only reason there aren't more is because there isn't a high volume of traffic here. Plus a lot of the drivers are super old (and I mean shouldn't-be-driving old) and don't like to drive on the highway, praise be for that small mercy.

Nova Scotia, or at least Pictou County, also seems to be bad at construction management. Currently there is construction on the causeway that links Pictou, my town, to the closest major centre of New Glasgow. The only other way to get there is to go around on the Alma road (pronounced Al-ma, not All-ma which is how I would say it - soooooo Pictou County ... more on that later) which takes an extra 10 minutes or so. Not bad considering some days the wait to cross the causeway because of the construction is 40 minutes. Best to go 'round. This photo is part way across the causeway, it's about a kilometre long if that helps - on the left is the harbour and on the right is Middle River - genius name that since the other two rivers are East and West. Brilliant.

The year I moved here Chruch Street, so named because of all the churches on it, was badly in need of repair. It is so bad I take a route through residential streets to avoid it even though the side streets aren't that much better, I just couldn't take the beating of potholes and uneven road surface. This is a 'tourist town' and as far as I'm concerned the town should be ashamed of the condition of that road for the last 3 years or however long it's been in that state. It's the main road to get into and through town and to have tour buses, campers, trailers and any kind of tourist come into town on that road is embarrassing. The town keeps talking about how it wants to boost tourism, improve its image and encourage more people to move here but I can tell you the single biggest deterrent to someone wanting to return is having to drive on crappy roads.

So, last year they made a big production about how they were going to re-surface Church Street. They claimed it would be completed by Winter 2011. Here we are, it's halfway through 2012 and the road has still not been resurfaced. Why? Because they decided that before they would do the road, they wanted to replace all of the sidewalks along Church Street. It's only about a kilometre long so no biggy right? It's been *months* and they are about 75% done the sidewalks. It's only taken them about 6 months less January and February for heavy snow. I suppose they imagined all those tourists walking along the lovely sidewalks and not complaining about the roads. It's almost high season and we not only don't have a main thorough-fare into town that won't take 5 years of life off your vehicle's suspension, it's also clogged up with detours, construction cones, people and machinery. Just where are those huge motorhomes, campers and trailers supposed to drive to get through the town? Up Water Street? I work on Water and let me tell you, it's not intended to be a main drag for heavy traffic flow. The preceding missive also demonstrates what I like to call 'Nova Scotia Time' which requires a blog all its own.

At this point thougth traffic is the least of the Town's concerns and if I sound frustrated by the Town of Pictou, and the County istself, you'd be right. There are a lot of things this place could do that would improve the image and get people out here - not only tourists but people who want to live here and make a life for themselves. It makes me crazy to see a town like Lunenburg doing so well when Pictou has just as much to offer but has no apparent plan to make it happen. I work in the town, I live here too and I want to see it do well ... maybe I'll run for office. Tamzin ... politics ... scary thought!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lovely Lunenburg

While my house sits on the market waiting for someone to recognize it's qualities and most excellent vibe, the dogs and I will be travelling to shows in various places across the province. Although the travel will often involve dog shows, I intend to do some sight seeing and photo taking. Friday, right after work, we left for Lunenburg which is on the South Shore. I live on the North shore so since the province looks like a banana you can guess that Lunenburg is basically on the opposite side of the province from me. It's a 3 hour drive, mostly lovely divided and well kept highway (not always the case - are you listening Cape Breton?) and just under 3 hours one way and about 500km round trip.

Lunenburg, in case you didn't know, is the home port of the Bluenose. If you open your wallet and dump out the change you will find the Bluenose on the Canadian dime. It's also on the province's license plate and is replicated multiple times and in multiple ways for tourists throughout the province. The ship had something to do with races, being undefeated etc but since I'm no Mariner and particularly dislike being on or in the water, I don't pay much attention to that sort of thing.

Anyway, Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Site which means it's something special about being a heritage type place. The gist of what I understand is that it is one of the oldest preserved planned British colonial sites - basically it means the Brits knew what the land looked like, laid out a town grid on a set of blueprints, sent a bunch of German and French colonials (and Brits I suppose) to build the site - kind of like what they did in Aliens when they discovered the mother ship but without the chest exploding parasites. I presume.

Anyway, the town is beautifully preserved, brightly painted and incredibly well kept. Lots of boutique stores and probably the most restaurants, cafes, eateries and diners per capita in Nova Scotia. Anything you want to eat, it's there and at any price you are willing to pay. After the dog show on Saturday we strolled down to the waterfront and had a look around. It's not high season yet so things were pretty quiet but I can imagine what it's like in the summer because there was nothing about this town that wouldn't appeal to someone looking for a tourist destination. I presume there's some sort of town ordinance that requires homes, at least the ones on major routes, to be kept at a certain level of care, cleanliness and exterior maintenance. The homes that weren't painted bright colors or didn't have landscaping were all certainly in the process of it. I think Pictou should do something like that but until this town grows some backbone and insists its citizens put in their dentures and stop hawking loogies on the sidewalk, it's a pipe dream.

Lunenburg held a couple surprises - one being a section of the Berlin Wall. Apparently it was a gift from Germany to the town because of its German heritage. I suppose it might have been because of the UNESCO thing but who knows really since the piece of the wall is located in an out of the way spot, not marked or easy to find and certainly nothing at the site to indicate why it's there. I took a few photos because, well, where else are you going to see this large a section of the Berlin Wall (besides Montreal - thanks Kathryn!).

The back side of it shows marks from being chipped away, possibly sledgehammers or pick axes or maybe something more substantial like a bulldozer bucket. I suspect those are the marks made when the wall came down, trying to get through the wall when it was erect would probably have gotten you shot.

Clearly the town also used to do whaling, not only indicated by the number of whale watching tours, which means there are a lot of whales in the offing, but also because this building has been left with its defunct signage in place, possibly because the town and the buildings owners know it's a piece of history too. History isn't often pretty and this company was in the business of ugly, although at the time it was perfectly normal way to make a living.

As was this, since companies are often symbiotic. I hear whale blubber sure burns clean ...

The building itself is not in use, or doesn't appear so. I'd love to go inside and take a look around but the state of the building is quite decrepit and doesn't appear safe to enter. It's not for sale, or at least there is no signage, and there is no access to it from the side I was on. The opposite side is closed off because it's along a secured wharf - possibly governmental - but it was a Saturday so who knows if it's in use on weekdays - certainly the government doesn't work on weekends.

The dog show was held just a few minutes walk from the waterfront - we had a moderately successful weekend with Cora learning how to be a show dog and almost relaxing enough to run around the ring without looking too anxious. I told Saturday's judge that it was Cora's first show and she made a point of taking her time, talking to Cora and making the experience positive. Cora won Best Puppy in Group on Saturday but not on Sunday although that judge explained - un-necessarily - that Cora stands with her elbows too close and her toes point outward. Well, duh, anyone can see that. The judge wanted me to stack her straight but since it was her first show I didn't want to fuss too much - it wasn't so much about winning as making it a positive experience for Cora. I also, erroneously, figured a decent judge would overlook the elbow thing when they saw that she moves very cleanly from the elbow despite her narrow front. I explained to the judge that her chest hadn't dropped and she was a puppy, but she said it distracted her because it was the first thing she saw. So what I heard was that she 'fault judges' and can't see past what is totally normal for a 11 month old large breed dog. Funny thing though, Cora's mother Leeloo won a Best Puppy in Show and her front lacked even more chest - clearly Leeloo was shown to a judge who understood what she was seeing. Anyway, I knew Cora would be a tough nut to crack based on her temperament (certainly not a dog I'd sell to a novice show home) but our next show is in 3 weeks and since she is a ridiculously smart dog she will do much better and I'm in no hurry to finish her or pressure her.

Esme, my little practice Special, won a 3rd in the Herding group on Saturday, and I don't mind saying I think it should have been a higher placement based on her quality; however, without that adult show coat to the ground judges have a hard time taking her seriously. The judge who gave her the group placement even commented that as a groomer she'd just shave all that coat off! If that woman knew what I've gone through to get the coat Esme has, she'd eat her words. The judge on Sunday, who complained about Cora's perfectly normal front, ignored my perfect Puli, so she is stricken from my show-to list. I can't afford to be driving for 3 hours each way and paying for a motel to enter under people who don't have a clue what they are looking at.

And that ... was Lunenburg. If you are headed this way I highly recommend going. It's a lovely town, easy to get to and if you are at all interested in architecture it's definitely a place you want to visit. There's certainly lots to see and do ... if you're not going to a dog show. Next stop ... Canning!